Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Writing Explicitly" at Kate Elliott's blog

Today, I'm posting on "Writing Explicitly" at Kate Elliott's blog - visit, comment!

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Sexy Pirates" at The Smutketeers

I'm a guest of The Smutketeers all this week talking about "Sexy Pirates" - and am also giving away a print copy of The Duke & The Pirate Queen. Stop by their blog to enter!

Also, keep an eye on this blog; in the next few weeks it's going to be moving to my website domain, with a new design and everything. I'll make sure to have pointers when it happens.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Siegfried Sassoon, "Haunted"


Evening was in the wood, louring with storm.
A time of drought had sucked the weedy pool
And baked the channels; birds had done with song.
Thirst was a dream of fountains in the moon,
Or willow-music blown across the water
Leisurely sliding on by weir and mill.

Uneasy was the man who wandered, brooding,
His face a little whiter than the dusk.
A drone of sultry wings flicker’d in his head.
The end of sunset burning thro’ the boughs
Died in a smear of red; exhausted hours
Cumber’d, and ugly sorrows hemmed him in.

He thought: ‘Somewhere there’s thunder,’ as he strove
To shake off dread; he dared not look behind him,
But stood, the sweat of horror on his face.

He blunder’d down a path, trampling on thistles,
In sudden race to leave the ghostly trees.
And: ‘Soon I’ll be in open fields,’ he thought,
And half remembered starlight on the meadows,
Scent of mown grass and voices of tired men,
Fading along the field-paths; home and sleep
And cool-swept upland spaces, whispering leaves,
And far off the long churring night-jar’s note.

But something in the wood, trying to daunt him,
Led him confused in circles through the thicket.
He was forgetting his old wretched folly,
And freedom was his need; his throat was choking.
Barbed brambles gripped and clawed him round his legs,
And he floundered over snags and hidden stumps.
Mumbling: ‘I will get out! I must get out!’
Butting and thrusting up the baffling gloom,
Pausing to listen in a space ’twixt thorns,
He peers around with peering, frantic eyes.

An evil creature in the twilight looping,
Flapped blindly in his face. Beating it off,
He screeched in terror, and straightway something clambered
Heavily from an oak, and dropped, bent double,
To shamble at him zigzag, squat and bestial.

Headlong he charges down the wood, and falls
With roaring brain—agony—the snap’t spark--
And blots of green and purple in his eyes.
Then the slow fingers groping on his neck,
And at his heart the strangling clasp of death.

--Siegfried Sassoon, The Old Huntsman and Other Poems, 1918

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Siegfried Sassoon, "To My Brother"

To My Brother

Give me your hand, my brother, search my face;
Look in these eyes lest I should think of shame;
For we have made an end of all things base.
We are returning by the road we came.

Your lot is with the ghosts of soldiers dead,
And I am in the field where men must fight.
But in the gloom I see your laurell’d head
And through your victory I shall win the light.

--Siegfried Sassoon, The Old Huntsman and Other Poems, 1918

Friday, November 26, 2010

Things I Like To Write About

I'm trying to find my bliss.

It's been so long since I've deliberately sought out inspiration on this scale that it feels like something new! I haven't had time to come up with a totally new project since back in 2007. Ever since then, I've been writing from book to book, under contractual demands. It's freeing to imagine all the different things I could be writing right now; or, at least, after I finish a couple of short-term writing goals from the to-do list.

I'm trying a bit of free-association. What have I written about in the past that gave me great joy? What thrills me when I read about it? What things/situations/events make me eager to write? And can I reduce some of my free association to a list of Things I Like which might coalesce into a new idea?

World War One
losing and finding family
space opera
social class
psychic powers
postwar traumas
formal address
woolly mammoths

...and the list goes on.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

And in other news, Erotic Exploits is now available for the Nook. If you have a Nook, and are willing to download the free sample, please let me know if the formatting looks all right or is terrible. The preview function does not seem to be working for me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Speculative Erotica Markets -- Philcon 2010

Almost every year at Philcon, I moderate the panel on selling fantastic (science fiction and fantasy) erotica. It was interesting this year to note how the panel topics have shifted over time: print to electronic to self-electronic.

For several years, after I first began to publish erotica, just before the beginning of the twenty-first century, at science fiction conventions I would give talks or host discussion groups on selling science fiction/fantasy erotica. I would focus on short stories, in particular selling sf/f erotica to mainstream erotica markets, also discussing sex in science fiction/fantasy in general. Once I'd sold novels, I added in chat about print publication, and my experiences writing erotica for Harlequin.

For the last few years, another local author, Stephanie Burke, has also participated in the Philcon panels; she focuses on electronic publishing, mostly in erotic romance, and talks about how she broke into and continues to sell to those markets.

This year, for the first time I found myself discussing self-publishing at the panel, as well. It seems to be the year of it. I read an interesting article in the Novelists, Inc. newsletter about how cover quality can influence sales of Kindle/Smashwords/etc. books; if you've received back the rights to a novel from your print publisher, usually you will need to do a new cover. Some writers have seen significant sales increases simply from getting a new, better cover that looks good as a thumbnail. One of this year's panelists was L.W. Perkins, a cover artist for numerous small presses and for electronic press Liquid Silver (please note her site is undergoing renovation at the moment; I gave the link for future reference).

I've been following reports from fellow writers who've experimented with electronically publishing novels or short stories they were unable to sell elsewhere, or that were out of print; sometimes they have significant sales. I've been following discussions of using free Kindle downloads to encourage sales of an author's backlist.

Last year, I didn't have any of that information. This year, discussion of these possibilities is becoming more and more mainstream.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rachel Kramer Bussel interview

Please welcome my guest, Rachel Kramer Bussel! Rachel and I met almost a decade back, when we were both reading our stories from Best Lesbian Erotica at Bluestockings in New York City. She graciously consented to answer some questions I had about the process of editing and her latest anthology, Passion: Erotic Romance for Women.


How do you choose a focus for an anthology? How did you choose the focus of Passion?

I try to look at what readers might want to read, what I’m interested in, and what would be fun to work on. I like having a theme but it’s tricky because you don’t want the stories to be too similar to each other, so a theme like passion and erotic romance is wide enough that there’s room for plenty of variety.

I’ve done a lot of kinky anthologies and wanted to try something a little sweeter and more romantic, though there is definitely kink in it. I was surprised to find that it was a challenge to write my own story, “Five Senses,” but it also brought me to a range of new authors who work in the erotic romance field, something I’m looking forward to continuing with 2011’s Obsessed anthology, and another erotic romance book to follow.

How does your original idea for an anthology translate into the call for submissions, and into the stories you eventually choose?

Sometimes it’s a more exact match than others, and that process has gotten refined over time. I put out very detailed calls in terms of what they should look like but regarding content try to leave plenty of room to allow authors to come up with whatever strikes their fancy.

To me the beauty of editing an anthology is that so much of it is based on the writers’ creativity; they always come up with a cool take on my original idea that I never could have foreseen. One great example of that in Passion is Jacqueline Applebee’s story “My Dark Knight.” I know nothing about Renaissance Fair type of play but I didn’t need to to appreciate her story, which also touches on the uncertainty of new relationships, especially where you really like someone and aren’t sure exactly how they feel about you. I look for stories that have a real-life nuance to them, where even if the plot is outlandish, there’s relatable emotion between the characters.

What's the hardest part of choosing stories? The most fun?

The hardest part is rejecting stories. I hate that, and sometimes it makes me want to quit editing anthologies because it’s not fun at all, but I also know I’ll always be working on new anthologies so I can pass along those calls for submissions.

The most fun part is finding a story that just nails the theme perfectly and is so wonderful I want to read it to everyone I know. Those are the gems and make the very time-consuming process of reading submissions a joy.

How do you choose the order in which stories appear? What input does the publisher have into the final product?

I tend to select the first and last stories as ones that will, respectively, suck the reader in and leave the reader satisfied but maybe wanting a little more, and beyond that, I don’t have a highly scientific ordering process. I add stories as I go over a few months of editing, and at the end may move them around. I like to build up to the more intense stories, but a lot of it, for me, is actually pretty random.

Cleis Press rarely alters the order of the stories, though they do have final approval of manuscripts and sometimes stories get cut for space or if they aren’t quite a fit with the book. I appreciate this attention to detail and think it makes the books truly beautiful, inside and out. They find outstanding cover photographs and work hard to create quality, memorable books.

What was the first anthology you edited? How did that come about?

I co-edited the anthology Up All Night: True Lesbian Sex Stories, and was brought on board by co-editor Stacy Bias. She asked me to help and that book includes stories by Tristan Taormino and L. Elise Bland. That came out in 2004 and then soon after I started editing anthologies on my own, like Glamour Girls: Femme/Femme Erotica and Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z.


Thanks, Rachel! I'm looking forward to the anthology!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Siegfried Sassoon, "Elegy"


To Robert Ross

Your dextrous wit will haunt us long
Wounding our grief with yesterday.
Your laughter is a broken song;
And death has found you, kind and gay.

We may forget those transient things
That made your charm and our delight:
But loyal love has deathless wings
That rise and triumph out of night.

So, in the days to come, your name
Shall be as music that ascends
When honour turns a heart from shame...
O heart of hearts! ... O friend of friends!

--Siegfried Sassoon
Picture-Show, 1920

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Siegfried Sassoon, "The Dug-Out"

The Dug-Out

Why do you lie with your legs ungainly huddled,
And one arm bent across your sullen, cold,
Exhausted face? It hurts my heart to watch you,
Deep-shadow’d from the candle’s guttering gold;
And you wonder why I shake you by the shoulder;
Drowsy, you mumble and sigh and turn your head...
You are too young to fall asleep for ever;
And when you sleep you remind me of the dead.

St. Venant, July 1918

--Siegfried Sassoon
Picture-Show, 1920

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sale, Philcon, NINC guest post

Three things today:

1. I sold a short erotic story, "Vanilla," to Kristina Wright's anthology Dream Lover: Paranormal Tales of Erotic Romance for Cleis Press. It's already available for pre-order!

2. I am at Philcon this weekend, hanging out with a UK friend, an archivist who was one of my chief resources about male homosexuality during World War One for The Moonlight Mistress. If you're there, feel free to say hi!

3. And I'm a guest poster today at the Novelists, Inc. Blog on "Reading for the Writer." Please drop by and check it out!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ella Drake - A Space Western World

Please welcome my guest, Ella Drake!


A Space Western world

When I started to write Silver Bound, a space western releasing Nov 22nd from Carina Press, the elements of world-building excited me. What’s not to love about creating a world for a book with the tagline: “A dangerous journey across the galaxy”? During the course of the story, we visit five shuttle craft, two planets, two space stations, and two large spacecraft. Yet, the hero is Guy, a sheriff from a small town on a technologically limited planet. To create that space western feel, I created a world for Guy to make him the quintessential cowboy in a white hat. Only, he doesn’t wear a hat and he can fly a shuttle craft. And, his hat wouldn’t really be white-white. He has his flaws.

But as I worked through the science elements--including a slave collar which used implanted nanobots to control the slave, how a memory wipe might work and how it might look visually on a medical screen, stuff like that--the home world had a more historical feel juxtaposed against the futuristic. A seemingly small addition to his character, a lasso, became an intriguing element. Guy knows how to use his lasso, which is a crucial part of who he is and what he might do in the story. He’s a rancher. To add flavor, to show his skill at his job, it makes sense that he might take down a cow or a calf with his lasso. Maybe take down a criminal. But since I have never used a lasso, didn’t know what it was like to throw one, I did some research.

It turns out, roping cattle is a controversial practice. Thought it’s rare, it can cause neck and other injuries in the roped animal. A scene that I’d originally intended to be Guy roping a calf to inoculate it, turned into a scene of chase with his robot dog. He couldn’t hurt the robot by catching it with his lasso, but he still has the expert skills of using the lasso. But was this enough? If concerns over safety of roping cattle, or even a human, is contested, couldn’t a futuristic story find a solution? In this case, I decided to give Guy a lasso made of special material that wouldn’t constrict too tightly.

Within this same scene, striking a balance between the anachronistic and futuristic led me to considering the scene: how to set up the ranch. What kind of robot dog would a rancher/sheriff want or need? And, how does my research balance with the need to create a scene, get the reader into the hero’s head and world, and set the stage as a future set story? Just because my research led me down a path about lassos and rodeos, does the reader need that information?

This is what I came up with, the introduction of our hero:

The rope left his fingers and flew with precision to its target. With a practiced yank, Guy tightened the lasso around his robo-shepherd’s legs. Max tumbled to the dry ground with a woof.

Guy strode forward to stroke Max’s soft, synthetically furred head and removed the lasso. “Good boy. You put up a good chase this time, but I took you down.”

The mottled-brown Max appeared to grin, tongue slurping along the cuts on his hands—the dog’s saliva carried first-aid anesthetic. Its tail thumped on the ground and sent dust flying in a cloud. Guy chuckled and signaled to Max with a wave and a low-key whistle. The knee-height robo-dog took off, leaving a rolling wave of air-thrown dirt in its wake as it circled Trident Ranch’s smallest corral.

And there we are. A balance of today and tomorrow. After hours of researching lassos, holding rope, feeling its texture, tying knots, and generally spending more time with the concept of roping than figuring out what powered the spacecraft in the story, I’m reduced to the few lines above. I think it was worth it.


Thanks, Ella, for sharing some of your process!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Philcon 2010 & "Hints of Mystery" at K.S. Manning's Blog

Today, I'm visiting K.S. Manning's Blog talking about "Hints of Mystery" in the plot of The Duke and The Pirate Queen.

Please stop by!

I'll be at Philcon 2010 this weekend (November 19-21). Here's my schedule:

Fri 7:00 PM in Plaza VII (1 hour)
Breaking into the fantastic erotica market

Victoria Janssen (moderator), Stephanie Burke, Jennifer Williams, Lynn Perkins
How to be part of this burgeoning market for strange and sexy tales.

Fri 10:00 PM in Executive Suite 623 (1 hour)
Victoria Janssen, Reading

Fri 11:59 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)
Eye of Argon reading

Oz Fontecchio (moderator), Keith R.A. DeCandido, Victoria Janssen, Gregory Frost, Hildy Silverman, Michael A. Ventrella
Science fiction professionals and members of the audience compete in a live reading contest of what may well be the genre's worst story ever. Last year's contest played to an audience that spilled half way down the hall and to peals of laughter. Come see what all the guffawing is about!

Sat 12:00 PM in Grand Ballroom A (1 hour)
Is steampunk a rejection of the present?

Victoria Janssen (moderator), Jeff Mach, Gil Cnaan, Philippa Ballantine, C.J. Henderson
What is the appeal of steampunk? What is the source of its enormous popularity?

Sat 3:00 PM in Plaza III (1 hour)
The avoidable cliches of steampunk

Jared Axelrod (moderator), Jeff Mach, Victoria Janssen, Bernie Mojzes
As this sub-genre has crystallized, what are the elements we see too much of?

Sat 9:00 PM in Plaza VI (Six) (1 hour)
The paranormal romance

L.A. Banks (moderator), Stephanie Burke, C.J. Henderson, Victoria Janssen, Gail Z. Martin
What is meant by the term paranormal romance, and what are the significant works in this field?

Sun 10:00 AM in Grand Ballroom A (1 hour)
Robots since Asimov

Ty Drago (moderator), Victoria Janssen, Neal Levin
There is more to robots than Asimov's Three Laws. A discussion of recent science fiction about robotics and artificial intelligence.

Sun 1:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)
Vampires thick as fleas

Victoria Janssen (moderator), L.A. Banks, Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, Michael A. Ventrella
Has this trend crested? Is it going to take over the field or has it become a ghetto unto itself?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Glimmerings in the Fog

I was in the shower last week when I finally felt the merest flicker of enthusiasm for a new writing project.

I've been deliberately taking some time off from writing. I took a week off solely to read (though I did end up writing a little bit on a short story). Before taking the time off, I wrote two synopses which were fine, adequate, but though they might be salable, I decided I wanted to think of other possibilities. And I've been waiting for inspiration.

I haven't had the leisure to wait for inspiration in several years, so it feels like something new, and a great luxury. It feels like something to be desired. So I was really glad that ideas for a future project began to appear, like matches being lit somewhere off in the fog. A bit here. A flicker at the corner of my eye. A hint of emotion when I think of a favorite novel or series.

I don't have anything cohesive yet, except knowing that I want to write about an alien planet or possibly an alternate dimension of some kind, but not one that's too alien. In my head, I'm assembling lists of Things I Like that might be useful for worldbuilding. And I'm poking at setups. Gently.

Be very quiet. I'm hunting rabbits.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stacey Kennedy on Wolves & Weres

The winner of the signed print copy of The Duke & The Pirate Queen, per, is Crystal Jordan. Congratulations, Crystal! I'll email you to obtain your mailing address.

Now, please welcome my guest, Stacey Kennedy!


What do we know about wolves? They live in a social hierarchy which is lead by an Alpha. They mate for life and will defend that mate to their death. They’re loving, yet deathly lethal when the situation calls them to be. Needless to say, it’s not a surprise that readers are taken by such a beautiful animal when portrayed as a werewolf.

When I created my werewolves in An Everlasting Bite, I followed many of the same rules wolves adhere too. Alphas lead over lower ranking wolves. Their hearts are destined to only one mate. They’re territorial and vicious when provoked. But of course, I changed a few rules too. My wolves are immortal and can shift to a human on command. Not that it hurts any, more just a shift in senses when the magic brings on the change.

As I created the characters, Briggs and Rynn, it really gave me a chance to step outside of myself. To imagine what turning into a werewolf would be like. How every sound would be crisper, how paws would feel when dug into the dirt, and how the wind would feel across your fur. The experience was quite a ride. I suppose by feeling so connected to the wolf while I wrote this story it made me want to understand them more. Through research, I discovered just how playful they are with their pack. And it was this character trait that inspired one of my favourite scenes in An Everlasting Bite. Below I’ve included an excerpt that shows you the sweeter side to a werewolf:

Briggs howled loudly to the moon. When he lowered his head, his eyes shone of rightness, protection, and happiness. But more than that, they showed playfulness. He nudged her side with his nose, nodded toward the forest.

She immediately caught his meaning. She jumped to her feet, returned the look of play and pounced forward. As she ran, she glanced back to see Briggs hitting the ground with his paws in anticipation and wagging his tail. She focused in front of her and ran as if her life depended on it.

His howl came loud, but far away. He let her have a head start, but as she rushed through the trees, she could hear him fast approaching.

She lunged faster, continued to run harder. Her paws barely touched the ground as her speed increased. Her ears twitched back and he began to close the distance. Briggs’ wolf was three times the size of her as a wolf. Needless to say, it didn’t take him long to catch up.

She had an advantage, though, her small size made her slightly quicker. She could weave through trees with impeccable speed while he had to go around them. He couldn’t catch her. He ran to her right, but she never looked back. She didn’t have to. His presence was there, and she could feel his playful banter coursing through her. For wolves, she suspected this was about as fun as it came, and she felt silly right along with him.

Suddenly, he moved faster--lengthened his stride.

Oh crap! He was only humoring her that she could out run him. Before she knew it, he was behind her and gave her backside a little nibble. She skidded to a halt and glanced behind her. He rested, head down and rump in the air, tail wagging.

The wolf within her knew exactly what to do. She lunged toward him. He jumped out of the way to rest in the same position and waited for her attack. Even in his wolf form, his eyes were so amused. He enjoyed this and so did she.

He growled, the sound rumbled through the air as he called her forward. She pounced again, but this time she ended up right on her butt as he maneuvered away from her.
Determined, she crouched down in the position he displayed--the declaration of an attack. She lunged forward. This time he let her. When she collided with him, they rolled around within the leaves and dirt, nibbling at each other.

After a final tumble, she jumped away. When she met his gaze, his eyes were smiling. She couldn’t deny how fun this was. As wolves, this was happiness. She’d needed this. Just silly fun. No danger, only them.


Thank you, Victoria, for letting me stop by and share my werewolves with you! Now I ask all of you, what side do you like most to the wolf―the sweet side or their ferocious protective nature?


Thanks, Stacey!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Siegfried Sassoon, "Thrushes"


Tossed on the glittering air they soar and skim,
Whose voices make the emptiness of light
A windy palace. Quavering from the brim
Of dawn, and bold with song at edge of night,
They clutch their leafy pinnacles and sing
Scornful of man, and from his toils aloof
Whose heart's a haunted woodland whispering;
Whose thoughts return on tempest-baffled wing;
Who hears the cry of God in everything,
And storms the gate of nothingness for proof.

--Siegfried Sassoon, Counter-Attack and Other Poems, 1918

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Siegfried Sassoon, "The Fathers"

The Fathers

Snug at the club two fathers sat,
Gross, goggle-eyed, and full of chat.
One of them said: ‘My eldest lad
Writes cheery letters from Bagdad.
But Arthur’s getting all the fun
At Arras with his nine-inch gun.’

‘Yes,’ wheezed the other, ‘that’s the luck!
My boy’s quite broken-hearted, stuck
In England training all this year.
Still, if there’s truth in what we hear,
The Huns intend to ask for more
Before they bolt across the Rhine.’
I watched them toddle through the door--
These impotent old friends of mine.

--Siegfried Sassoon, Counter-Attack and Other Poems, 1918

Friday, November 12, 2010

GreenFlea Market in Manhattan

Two friends and I made the trip up to New York City last weekend, for the GreenFlea Market at 77th and Columbus. The setting:

Where furs go to Live Again. Or be Unalive Again? Zombie furs?

I declined to purchase this little fellow. Yes, you are intended to wear him.

Yarn!!! I don't even knit but I was tempted by the bright colors and the oh-so-soft textures. I have friends who knit....

These chandeliers were gorgeous in the autumn sunlight. One of my friends said she'd bought loose parts there before, to make ornaments.

More shinies. I saw much jewelry I liked but it was almost all vintage, and I invariably liked the most expensive ones.

Oh-kay. It's certainly an interesting painting.

The farmers' market moved across the street. Orange cauliflower!

By the time we left, the NYC Marathon was finishing up and the sidewalks were jammed. On the way back downtown for Korean food, we saw a lot of runners wrapped in thermal blankets and walking slowly--or limping--through the subway.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Laurence Binyon, "The Fallen"

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

--Laurence Binyon

Originally published in The Times, 21 September 1914

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Living in the Future

I have purchased a Kindle! My first surprise, when I announced my purchase of an e-reader on Twitter, was how many people immediately demanded details. So I guess others have been pondering which e-reader, if any at all, just as much as I have.

My decision was based on a whole string of factors including reviews, personal discussions, and, umm, me having a gift certificate.

Before the actual device arrived, I was tickled to learn I could add content while it was in transit. So I bought a few books I'd wishlisted, samples of others, and then started looking at what was available for free download.


I don't know yet how good the formatting is on all of those free books, but I was very pleased to find that a number of classics on my personal TBR were available for free, and I won't have to check out large musty tomes from the library. We'll see if that makes me go through my "classics" TBR faster, or not. At least I'm one step closer to finally reading some Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone
and The Woman in White), and Mary Shelley's The Last Man, among others.

I will defintiely share more of my experiences with the Kindle once I actually have it in hand. ETA: It arrived late yesterday.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

E-Galleys - Lost Sales, Gained Publicity

I've had people ask me why I think it's good to give out free books instead of selling them. Having been a reviewer, I know that regardless of my opinion on the matter, publishers want reviews and will send all kinds of things to reviewers in hope, even if the reviewer hasn't published a review in years. (Having served on an award jury, I also know that publicists will send books on the mere off-chance that they might be suitable for consideration, even if they only squeak into the award category by a whisker.)

Also, galleys are intended to reach reviewers before the book's release date. Sales during a book's first month on shelves are extremely important. (I'm considering them separately from bookstore orders, which happen far in advance.) Better to have the online buzz start early and continue throughout that month. If the reviewer has to wait for release day, she doesn't have as much time to read and review.

I don't know if free books lead to lost sales. But consider: what if those reviewers, in other circumstances, had never heard of the book at all? Better a slim chance of a review, reaching potentially thousands, than leaving it to fate.

Since I don't know how much longer galleys will be available, this post is also to serve as a reminder that The Duke and the Pirate Queen is now on NetGalley if you're a reviewer who's registered with the site. The catalog of Harlequin galleys. You don't have to review for magazines or a blog to register; you're eligible if you only plan to review books on GoodReads,, etc..

If you're curious about the service, here's the FAQ. To me, it seems like a good idea just from the standpoint of being Green. Publishers who are making their galleys available in electronic form are not printing galleys, many of which would end up being discarded. And, hopefully, they can reach reviewers who prefer electronic reading, or who might not have been receiving review copies previously.

Here are some excerpts from the book:

Excerpt from the opening chapter.

Second excerpt.

Third excerpt.

Fourth excerpt.

Amazon link for pre-ordering print copies.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Giveaway - The Duke & The Pirate Queen

I have received my author copies of The Duke & The Pirate Queen! Therefore, it is time for the Traditional Giving Away of A Signed Advance Copy.

Comment on this post between now and midnight, U.S. Eastern Time, on November 14th. On Monday, November 15th, I'll use a randomizer to choose a winner and announce it in the blog.

It's not required, but I'd appreciate it if your comment was amusing or entertaining in some way. For instance, you could tell me why you are special and should win a free book. Or how you are the biggest pirate fan ever. Or how much you hate pirates but have a thing for privateers. Etc.

It doesn't matter where in the world you live; if you win I will ship the book there. Except if you live off-planet. Then, we'd have to talk logistics.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Siegfried Sassoon, "Wirers"


‘Pass it along, the wiring party’s going out’--
And yawning sentries mumble, ‘Wirers going out.’
Unravelling; twisting; hammering stakes with muffled thud,
They toil with stealthy haste and anger in their blood.

The Boche sends up a flare. Black forms stand rigid there,
Stock-still like posts; then darkness, and the clumsy ghosts
Stride hither and thither, whispering, tripped by clutching snare
Of snags and tangles.
Ghastly dawn with vaporous coasts
Gleams desolate along the sky, night’s misery ended.

Young Hughes was badly hit; I heard him carried away,
Moaning at every lurch; no doubt he’ll die to-day.
But we can say the front-line wire’s been safely mended.

--Siegfried Sassoon, Counter-Attack and Other Poems, 1918

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Siegfried Sassoon, "Break of Day"

Break of Day

There seemed a smell of autumn in the air
At the bleak end of night; he shivered there
In a dank, musty dug-out where he lay,
Legs wrapped in sand-bags,--lumps of chalk and clay
Spattering his face. Dry-mouthed, he thought, ‘To-day
We start the damned attack; and, Lord knows why,
Zero’s at nine; how bloody if I’m done in
Under the freedom of that morning sky!’
And then he coughed and dozed, cursing the din.

Was it the ghost of autumn in that smell
Of underground, or God’s blank heart grown kind,
That sent a happy dream to him in hell?--
Where men are crushed like clods, and crawl to find
Some crater for their wretchedness; who lie
In outcast immolation, doomed to die
Far from clean things or any hope of cheer,
Cowed anger in their eyes, till darkness brims
And roars into their heads, and they can hear
Old childish talk, and tags of foolish hymns.

He sniffs the chilly air; (his dreaming starts),
He’s riding in a dusty Sussex lane
In quiet September; slowly night departs;
And he’s a living soul, absolved from pain.
Beyond the brambled fences where he goes
Are glimmering fields with harvest piled in sheaves,
And tree-tops dark against the stars grown pale;
Then, clear and shrill, a distant farm-cock crows;
And there’s a wall of mist along the vale
Where willows shake their watery-sounding leaves,
He gazes on it all, and scarce believes
That earth is telling its old peaceful tale;
He thanks the blessed world that he was born...
Then, far away, a lonely note of the horn.

They’re drawing the Big Wood! Unlatch the gate,
And set Golumpus going on the grass;
He knows the corner where it’s best to wait
And hear the crashing woodland chorus pass;
The corner where old foxes make their track
To the Long Spinney; that’s the place to be.
The bracken shakes below an ivied tree,
And then a cub looks out; and ‘Tally-o-back!’
He bawls, and swings his thong with volleying crack,--
All the clean thrill of autumn in his blood,
And hunting surging through him like a flood
In joyous welcome from the untroubled past;
While the war drifts away, forgotten at last.

Now a red, sleepy sun above the rim
Of twilight stares along the quiet weald,
And the kind, simple country shines revealed
In solitudes of peace, no longer dim.
The old horse lifts his face and thanks the light,
Then stretches down his head to crop the green.
All things that he has loved are in his sight;
The places where his happiness has been
Are in his eyes, his heart, and they are good.

Hark! there’s the horn: they’re drawing the Big Wood.

--Siegfried Sassoon, Counter-Attack and Other Poems, 1918

Friday, November 5, 2010

Print Versus E-Book Smackdown!

I'm still--yes, still--thinking about getting an e-reader. As part of my decision-making process, I started thinking of why I would choose e-books over print, and vice versa.

1. A good friend wrote the book. Then I might want the print version, so they could autograph it; particularly if it was their first book, which is special. However...I rarely read short stories, despite having piles of short story collections written by friends, and anthologies in which their stories appear. I recently discovered short stories are a good length to read while on the elliptical. So, if I got an e-reader, I could read short stories while exercising.

2. I want to be prepared for the apocalypse. Print seems safer for that. So the really serious keepers probably need to be print. However, there's nothing to stop me from also having them in electronic form; for example, my copy of the new Lois McMaster Bujold novel, Cryoburn, has a cd in the back with electronic versions of most of her novels, so even though I own them in paper, I could also re-read them on an e-reader.

3. Some books aren't keepers. I am trying to get better about not keeping books just because I read them. Some books I am unlikely to read again. Those, I try to give/sell/trade away before I become attached simply from having them around for a while. I wouldn't have to go through the give/sell/trade process if these were e-books, because they wouldn't be taking up space, and if for some reason I filled up my e-reader (don't laugh! if anyone could, that would be me!), I could delete them.

The trick is that I don't always know which books will be keepers. I suppose I could re-buy an e-book as a print book if I really, really wanted it in print.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spotlight on Shveta Thakrar

I first met fantasy writer Shveta Thakrar when her writing group invited me to give a reading or talk about my writing. I chose to answer their questions about writing and my experiences with publishing, and a good time was had by all. My life is the richer for the friends I made that day.

I was thinking about Shveta's journal recently as I gave advice to someone about their blog. Shveta sometimes posts interviews with other writers, like this one with Amal El-Mohtar. If blogging is community as well as personal platform, I can't think of a better way to show that than to establish new links, new connections, like when friends of friends of friends meet at a party. I've often found new blogs to read in that way, and even made new connections.

I've been thinking that, after I've done the major promoting for The Duke and The Pirate Queen, that I should work on my skills as an interviewer, perhaps featuring some of the people I've met over my years online.

For those who are interested in non-Western folklore, I highly recommend Shveta's article In Search of Apsaras in Cabinet des Fées. "I love faeries. I grew up reading all about them, believing in them, dreaming about them. I collected all the drawings, books, and winged figurines I could, I gobbled up lore like forbidden faerie food, I made wings out of poster board and glitter. I could rattle off bits of trivia like how the use of iron kept away unwanted visitors, that the fey inability to lie didn't preclude trickery, and that a brownie accepted gifts of food in return for cleaning a house. When things got bad, I told myself I was fey. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that it even occurred to me there might be faeries outside Western Europe--specifically, outside the Victorian take on the Celtic and British traditions." Go, read!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Reading Lessons

One of the reasons for my reading vacation was to refill my brain with stuff that I will, eventually, use to write. Letting new water seep into the well, as it were. Eventually, I will write again, and I don't want to have to dig that writing out of the dry and cracked ground of my brain with a pickaxe.

(Another reason was that if I didn't get some hermit-time, I was going to start banging people over the head with whatever I had to hand if they so much as looked at me funny, which tells you something about me and reading.)

I read a lot of books during that week, and skimmed through some that I didn't feel like reading in their entirety, and I tried not to think too much about writing. I did write, on Friday--I had an idea, or part of one, that I burned to put on paper, so I allowed myself to do that, but I didn't finish the short story I began, I only wrote until I came to a logical stopping point. (I didn't finish the story yet, anyway).

But back to the reading. A large portion of what I read were books from series that I had followed for years, one of them even before it was sold. I realized what I cared about, far more than the ongoing plot, was the characters. They'd appeared in more than one book, so I had a better acquaintance with them than characters who only appear in a single novel. Sometimes it only takes one book to love a character, but there are other things you can do with them when they appear over and over. I am thinking about that now. Not very hard. But it's in my backbrain.

I already knew I loved character-driven novels and series even more. It seems a silly thing to need to be reminded of. But I think I did need to be reminded. Now I'm thinking about why I like series so much.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Linkgasm of Fun

...sounds naughty, doesn't it?

It's been a while since I posted a linkgasm, and in keeping with my recent week of vacation, here are some fun websites.

Paula's Art and Illustration includes links to a large number of Flickr groups for vintage photos and illustrations.

Old Time Candy from the 1950s on. I haven't yet ordered anything from them, but I have been tempted. It could be research.

Radio Guy. Just go look at all his pictures of cool vintage scientific equipment and masks and automobiles and, yes, radios.

Cool Tools. A blog, about exactly what it says.

Accents and Dialects of the UK has sound recordings of various United Kingdom dialects, some recent and some older.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Books Books Books

I had the most awesome vacation ever. Also, it was cheap!

I traveled in my imagination, just like those library posters always told me I could. For an entire week, I did nothing much but read.

I could very easily do it again. Right now.

I began with White Cat by Holly Black, which I think is her best book so far (Though Valiant remains my favorite of her novels.) For such a short novel, it packs in quite a lot of worldbuilding and thematic depth. It's an exemplar of why I love speculative YA fiction.

The rest of the week was devoted to finishing series, or at least finishing the books I had in them; it was sort of like going to visit a lot of very old and dear friends. Tuesday was Corambis by Sarah Monette, which I saved for so long that it's now come out in paperback. I was sorry this series, The Doctrine of Labyrinths, is over. I could easily see a fifth book, based on character changes that happened in this one, that might have taken the story in an interesting new direction.

Wednesday, I read Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold, which just came out this month. It's the last in the Vorkosigan series, which I've been reading for over twenty years. *boggles* The ending was both painful and fitting.

Thursday, I started and then skimmed a YA novel I didn't get into, then went on to Where Serpents Sleep by C.S. Harris, fourth in a series of Regency-set mysteries. The fifth one is out now and there's a sixth out next year, I think. I didn't enjoy this one as much as the previous three, I think because it's a sort of interim book, right after a major change in the series setup. I think the fallout from this one might be more fun, so I plan to read the next one.

Friday was Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik, newest of the Temeraire books. This one, also, felt to me like a bit of an interim book, setting up a great deal of conflict perhaps leading into the final three books of the series.

Finally, I read Jane and the Damned by Janet Mullany. Much as I scoff at fiction that has Jane Austen as a character, I really enjoyed this; I enjoyed Mullany's portrayal of Jane and her sister Cassandra as much or more than I did the interesting vampire plot with its snooty aristocratic Damned. I particularly loved that the vampires never "ate" or "fed." They only "dined."

Mmm, books. So delicious.